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Why you need to get an assessment?

Why you need to get an assessment?

 

As you guys and girls may or may not know I’ll be running assessments for the people who want them. But this raises a very pertinent question:

Why should you want an assessment?

Which is perfectly valid. You should really question everything and know why you’re doing stuff. What will the assessment tell you that is worth knowing? The easy answer is it tells you your strengths and weaknesses. At least relative to yourself if not in absolute terms.

Alas, easy answers are, as per usual, not good enough.

Knowing your why your goal is your goal and Key Performance Indicators

 

To get to understanding the reason to get an assessment we need to start with or figure out your “why” (not really related to Simon Sinek but also if you haven’t read “Start with why” you really should).

Why are you at CFLDN? What are you trying to get from your membership?

This can be anything, it’s your prerogative. Anything from just wanting to enjoy the community to competing at the games is a legit goal but have wildly different applications in terms of assessment. If you already know why you’re here congratulations for being ahead of the curve. If not, take a couple of days to have a proper think about it.

A goal comes with Key Performance Indicators (KPI), those things that are crucial to achieving the desired outcome. Then we have Secondary Performance Indicators (2KPI), those things central to the KPI’s. Tertiary Performance Indicators (3KPI), at which point you understand the concept.

This is where we come to the need, or not, of an assessment once you have unearthed what your goal is. Is your goal at all performance related? I’d define pretty much anything that includes the term “improve” as performance:

  • Improving body composition (losing fat and retaining/building muscle)
  • Improving Fran times
  • Improving strength
  • Improving mobility
  • etc. it’s not an exhaustive list.

If your goals are ANYTHING like this then you need to get an assessment to find out where you are. When you know where you are you then can see what KPI, 2KPI, and 3 KPI’s  you’re weak in and therefore where your training and programming needs to be focussed.

What the assessment involves:

This is what the assessment process will test so you can see that once that’s done we have a VERY complete picture of where you are.

 

Energy Systems: The ways in which the body produces the energy to work.

Aerobic System: The recovery system for higher output work. Also used for lower output and longer duration work. Primarily fat and oxygen as fuel source.

Glycolytic System: The short-term energy that’s used to fuel near maximal intensity work for upto 3 minutes-ish. Sugar is it’s primary fuel source but it’s also worth noting when Hydrogren + ions are produced as a by-product it inhibits muscle activity. So too much time in this energy system range and without a sufficient aerobic capacity to clear the H+ results in a very quick and significant decrease in performance

Phosphor-Creatine System: The MAX energy system. When your body needs to produce the highest output possible it needs the the potential energy that comes from the PCr uncoupling to provide immediate fuel. The reformation of PCr needs energy produced by the aerobic system. This means that if you want to consistently produce maximal effort outputs you need both a highly developed PCr system AND and highly developed Aerobic System

 

Strength:

Strength Endurance: A muscle or group of muscles ability to repeatedly produce non-maximal force

Maximal Strength: A muscle or group of muscles ability to produce the most force

Power: The ability to produce high force rapidly

 

Movement:

Low Threshold Non-Fatigued: Unloaded, slow, low skill movements without fatigue

Low Threshold Fatigued: The same movements under a state of fatigue

High Threshold: Movement which is fast, heavy, complex or a combination of any 2 or all.

 

(potentially) Mobility/Stability/Flexibility:

Joint-by-Joint

Muscles

Static Posture

 

Tying it all together


This is the important part. Once the assessment is done we can create a visual representation of where your strengths and weakness areCompare that to your KPI stream and then build an individual program for you that’ll address the KPI’s and build where needs it. Which brings us back round to the programming 101 and how to write programming by adaptation.

If you want to come book in for your assessment all you need to do is email me ( alex@crossfitlondonuk.com )

 

Programming 201

Programming 201

 

In the previous instalment we went over how to create the starting point to build your own gym program. Today we’re going to look at how you can use the data you collect to inform decisions about how to adjust the program going forward.

If you can take 10 minutes go back and read through the Programming 101 article to understand this in context. If you’ve already read it, well done, I’ll quickly remind you what the key points are so your memory is refreshed

  • Get assessed – hire someone or do it yourself. Figure out where and what your problems are
  • Know what adaption it is that you want to make – Have A, that is 1, clear goal.
  • Volume and Intensity – Make sure the total number of repetitions you do fall in the right zones (to start with) and the weight on the bar is in the right area to achieve the adaption you want.
  • Pick exercises that appropriately fulfil your desired adaptation goals, sets, reps and intensity. – simply put, pick exercises which fit the above criteria.
  • Keep going until it stops working.

Because you guys are manifold there is no way I can guess what your program looks like so instead I’m going to talk about the next step in terms of principles.

Let’s make a few assumptions:

  • You followed the structure I laid out for creating a program
  • You kept track of the data in a spreadsheet
  • You kept going until you stopped seeing your numbers increasing at the same Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)

Which puts you at the point where you’ve kind of stalled. You’re not seeing an increase in the weights you’re using whilst maintaining the same RPE. We’ll work from this point.

 

Step 1: Take a transition block.

You’ve probably heard about this importance of “deload” weeks. That is regularly planned blocks of time where you back off from higher intensity work in an effort to manage fatigue. If you’re fatigued, you aren’t recovered, and you won’t recover as well workout to workout.

A transition block is a similar method of managing fatigue but instead of being at an arbitrary time, an arbitrary length, and an arbitrary decrease in volume/intensity you’ll look at refining it just as much as you do the developmental blocks.

Let’s take a step back and address how we control the block lengths.

In Programming 101 Step 5 was to stick with it until you stopped progressing. In other words, keep going until you find out how many weeks it takes you to stop seeing results from a certain training stimulus.

For example if we use an arbitrary 6 week developmental block where you train using the same stimulus (program) for 6 weeks it will work for some people. But what happens if you stop seeing improvements after 3 weeks, you adapt really quickly? The last 3 weeks are wasted time where you could have transitioned and almost completed another development block. What about if you would of kept seeing progress if you’d stuck to the program for 9 weeks? If you stopped after 6 weeks you’re missing out upon 3 weeks of potential gains.

Neither scenario is great.

That’s why I’m asking you to track the data and have an actual time frame which is personal to you. For the sake of argument lets just say we hit it on the head with the 6 weeks.

You have a 6 week window to peak adaptation. So you can work about 6 weeks before you plateau

We then take approximately 30% of the your window to peak adaption time as a transition block, 2 weeks in this case. If you took 9 weeks you would have a 3-week transition block etc. etc.

In terms of what happens on the transition block, the goal isn’t just to reduce fatigue. The key is to re-sensitise to the desired training stimulus. If you’re been working hard to create a strong signal to your body to grow muscle, then the stop in adaption means you are desensitised to that stimulus.

Whilst then we can manage fatigue through dropping the volume and intensity there is a call to change the stimulus as well. It doesn’t have to be a huge change, just something that allows the body to recover a little. For example, if you’ve been working purely on strength in the transition window you might look a little more at explosive power work or being more athletic overall, if you were looking purely at increasing size then your transition might be some kind of strength work?

Transition Protocol:

Length: 30% of window to peak adaptation length

For Strength goals reduce the average training intensity by 30%, the volume by 10%, and change training stimulus to a non-competitive yet different adaptation (power, hypertrophy, speed)

For Size goals reduce the average training intensity by 10%, the volume by 30%, and change training stimulus to a non-competitive yet different adaptation (power, strength, capacity).

Once you’ve completed the allotted time for the transition block you can go back into a development cycle (or peaking block).

NB – just because you’re changing the training stimulus slightly doesn’t mean that you can ignore the sports skill. If you’re a powerlifter or a weightlifter, then you still need the competition lifts (or close variation) in the transition block but you’ll just have them in a slightly different place.

 

Step 2: Making a new Development Block with changes

This means going through steps 1 through 5 again of Programming 101. The changes come however by making small changes based upon your training data. To understand what changes you should make comes down to understanding your weaknesses and where you’re failing.

In turn this comes down to the assessment step.

In “Programming 101” I mentioned how we take videos and observe lifts to find out where they fall apart and from this infer where what areas and exercises might be best. You should be running this exact procedure again.

Variables you might want to look at altering might include

  • Intensity ranges
  • Volume
    • Daily
    • Weekly
  • Exercise Selection (including variation)
  • Lift phase emphasis (eccentric focus, isometric focus, concentric focus)
  • Unilateral vs Bilateral

Etc. To get the most out of this you’ll need to spend a lot of time on it and on your spreadsheet (which is why you should really have a coach). With this type of data collection and analysis we must take something of a Bayesian approach. Bayesian inference, in a very basic way, says the more data we collect the higher the probability a correct inference can be made. Or, the more data we collect the clearer the picture becomes.

The classic example is firing photons at a “target” through slotted paper. At first the results appear random. They show up on the target in no clear pattern. But as more and more photons are “fired” the outline of the slots appears progressively more defined. Basically you’re more data increases your resolution.

In real words what’s this means is the more data we collect, the more development cycle you run, the better picture you can build up of what works.

Take a look this snapshot of training data:

This is a macro view of a few squat variations (we didn’t start running good mornings until later in the year) and their relationship with the competition lift.  As you can see this is a VERY small sample size but we can probably that in this situation pause squats help and eccentric squats help. Potentially blocks of paused squats FOLLOWED BY eccentric squats help more.

Now lets say we have 20 or 30 cycles of training data we’d have a very clear picture of what works and what doesn’t. Knowing this you can then program being able to make strong inferences to what will work. This being said the human body is an open system so just because you do “A”  and it works really well in January doing it again in November doesn’t ensure the same.

Considerations

This way of programming takes time and for the first few blocks isn’t any clearer than traditional programming. The key is consistency to one goal over time, collecting the data and making sure you then look at it to see what’s working.  If you see that every time you add in heavy deadlifts your deadlifts goes down then you know that may be high intensity deadlifts aren’t the key for building your deadlift no matter what people say. Likewise, if every time you add in a paused bench press you hit new maximal numbers then maybe you every time you plan to hit a new record the block before should include paused bench press?

If you really want to make the most of the effort you put into the gym you should make the effort to stick with the programming and learn what works for you. We live in an age now where no one has the time to do this which leaves you two options

  1. Make the time
  2. Pay someone to do it for you

If you have the expertise and time then it’s very much worth learning for yourself. If you don’t you should hire a coach whom understands the training process but remember when you hire a coach they’re the expert, but you are the boss. If it’s not what you want or how you want there is always another coach out there.

Programming 101

 Programming 101

The goal of getting in the gym and working out is to change your body. It doesn’t matter what the change is, you just need to understand that you’re there, primarily, to see a change to your body in one way or another.

Typically the goal for most people is to look great naked. For others it is to be strong or improve sports performance. Maybe even a combination of all the above.

You need to figure out what your reason for being in the gym is before you even start thinking about writing your own program. Only once a goal is in place can you start planning how to achieve it.

And that is all programming is.  A long-term plan, structured in such a way to bring about (or at least advance towards) the stated goal. It can be as complex as the below to take Hikaru to the IPL Worlds

 

Or as simple as do 5 sets of 5 reps and each week add 2.5 kg.

Both are legitamate programming style and effective for the right person. What we are interested in though is giving you the tools to let you build the right program for you to get you to your goal.
__________________________________________________________________________________
Disclaimer: Whilst the will be as simplied as possible it is expected that you understand some basic programming principles

 

What you will need:

  • Excel or another spreadsheet software to track your numbers (at a push you can go pen and paper but it’s going to get complicated VERY quickly).
  • The patience and self-belief to stick to the plan you wrote
  • Self-awareness to admit to yourself what has and has not worked. You will not ever write the perfect program, best realise it now.

For the sake of ease, we’re going to assume that this program is being written with the goal of building maximal strength in the squat, bench press, and deadlift. I’m choosing this because even if the goal is merely to look good naked or as complex as building sports performance you can do much, much worse that getting brutally strong.

Whenever you’re looking at planning anything it’s always worth measuring twice and cutting once. Know what you’re dealing with to start with, where your faults and weaknesses (both physically and technically) are, and be realistic about it. Very few people are going to go from not being able to execute a competent bodyweight squat to a 100kg back squat in 12 weeks.

Step 1: Assess yourself (or hire someone to):

If you don’t know what this means its best that you hire a great coach with a track record of producing high level athletes to do this for you. If you have an idea what you’re looking for but aren’t quite certain then I’ll suggest:

 

  • Video 3 to 5 doubles (2 reps) of squat, bench press, and deadlift above 90% of your max. The goal here isn’t to impress yourself with half reps but to give you a realistic idea of where your lifts are falling apart
    • Squat
      • Watch out for your chest and bar staying still but your hips raising. This is a very common fault and usually can be attributed to a technical understanding issue or weak quads.
      • Not reaching depth, it’s not down to poor ankle mobility or tight hips. You’re just weak or lazy. Drop the weight and work for the long-term results
      • Are you rounding your upper or lower back? Then your need to address how strong your trunk is. If you’re not strong enough to keep a position constant through the lifts then something needs fixing there.
      • Knee collapse, a lot of people are very quick to jump in and shout weak glutes at this but more likely you’re letting your feet do something wrong. Work on planting your feet strongly and screwing them into the floor.
    • Bench Press
      • Are you not managing to reach the bar t your chest every single rep. Lower the weight sunshine. You’re just not strong enough for that weight yet. It’ll come but for now focus on moving a load that you can do well and recover from.
      • Missing or grinding reps halfway up could be down to a weakness of the chest or lacking speed off the chest.
      • Not quite being able to lock your arms out at the top. This would be an unusual issue to come across in a normal gym but it could be down to weak or fatigued triceps.
    • Deadlift
      • Can’t even get the bar off the floor
        1. It’s too heavy
        2. Your set up is wrong
        3. Your core is too weak
        4. It’s probably too heavy
      • Can’t squeeze your hips through to stand up straight at the top means that your butt is weak, or you’ve taken too much time to get the bar that far. You have the video make the call
      • If you drop or feel like you’re going to drop the bar then your grip strength is letting you down.
      • And obviously any deviation from a long, straight spine position means that all of the first points fixes AND you need to check your ego because it’s going to get you hurt.

Step 2: Know what adaptation you want to create

The most common error I see in watching amateurs (and most professionals) do their own programming is that they program by exercise. You MUST program by adaptation. I’m going to say it again so you really get it

YOU MUST PROGRAM BY ADAPTATION

To explain what this means. You need to understand that the exercise isn’t important, what is important is getting to the goal. The goal is the goal. The goal is always the goal. So if my goal is to have the best squat I can but what’s holding me back is quads so week I’m not even being able to hold a good position to squat then whilst my skill work might be looking at building a great squat at a lower intensity (utilising whatever technical squat progressions you adhere to) the strength work doesn’t have to be based on squatting it can just be building quad strength in whatever way works for you.

To bring this back to programming by adaptation. In this case the change that we are looking for in increasing quad strength, how we get there is completely up to you. You are not tied to any exercise, you don’t have to do any exercises. You HAVE to do what gets you the changes in your body which gets you closer to your goals.

In step 1 when I explained the common faults in the squat, bench, and deadlift it should have given you some clues to what adaptations you are trying to create.

Step 3: Volume and Intensity

This can be thought as simply as sets, reps, and weights. You need to be using the right ones for the right adaptations. There is a few ways to do this. Something like Perilipin’s table:

 

Where there is up and down sides. Upsides it’s super simple to use and laid out in convenient blocks based upon adaptation and % intensity. Downsides, just because a % intensity is written in at these sets, reps doesn’t mean that is the adaptation that works for you personally.

The other option is to go back to the work of Helms and Morgan where the prescribe doing a total of 40 to 70 reps per muscle group per session and hitting each muscle group 2 to 3 times a week (so 80 to 210 reps per muscle group per week). If the goal is strength 65 to 75% of these reps should be at a greater intensity than a weight you can lift 6 times (that’s 52-60 reps and the bottom end and 136 -168 reps at the top end per week at above 6 rep max).  And the rest of your numbers at between your 6 and 12 rep maxes. Conversely if there goal is for muscle size then there proportions of sub and supra 6RM is inverted.

My personal preference is to use Helm’s method and a baseline and build from there.

Step 4: Pick exercises that appropriately fulfil your desired adaptation goals, sets, reps and intensity.

This is where you can start considering exercise selection. But you must be clear about your personal selection bias as well as what exercises are appropriate at what rep, sets, and intensity ranges. Furthermore, there must be consideration as to what the crossover in terms of muscle groups used in different exercises throughout the week. It’s very easy to overload the lower back when you forget that it’s a significant player in the majority of lower body movements.

To work through some short examples. It might sound great to consistently use a back squat for all your movements. After all it covers most of the lower body and lower back. Practically however have you ever tried to do multiple sets of 12 rep max set of squats at the end of a week where you have already done 150 heavy reps. The injury risk and just plain uncomfortableness makes it a bad choice. Maybe at this point you might be better off adding in some quad isolation work or leg press. This lean towards machine and isolation work becomes even more noteworthy when you start adding in other movements, such as deadlifts, and, as previously mentioned, the lower back starts being used more. It suddenly becomes extraordinarily easy to do 300 reps of lower back work inevitably running into soreness and injury.

Step 5: Repeat the week until you stop improving

This is where you need the tracking and self-control. If you have followed the above instructions and used a little bit of good judgement, then you’ve made a pretty solid week-long program. The only to do now is to repeat it until it stops working.

This might sound counter-intuitive to do the same thing but if it’s working and you’re getting better than it’s nonsensical to discontinue. There is, however, a caveat. The sets, reps, intensity and exercise selection stay the same, but the weight should go up as needed.

This needs the introduction of a paradigm shift.

Intensity, whilst guided by % now becomes a how hard you’re trying. Say you must do 3 sets of 5 reps of squats in the first week at 80% you need to rank on your spreadsheet how hard you tried. The next week you should try work at the same difficulty but hopefully with more weight. I have people rate between 1 to 5 AND from “Easy” to “Pushing the limit” but it’s just as good to say you worked at an 8 out of 10 difficulty or a 7 out of 10 difficulty.

Please bear in mind that learning how hard you’re working out of 10 in a skill just like squatting and will take you a long time to learn. If every week the weight doesn’t go up that’s ok, if one weeks it goes down that’s also okay the trend however should be upwards (track this on a graph on your spreadsheet for ease).

 

When the trend stops going upwards you can consider these exercises spent for the time being and it’s time to redo the whole process again.

 

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